CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application is entitled to the benefit of and incorporates by reference essential subject matter disclosed in International Patent Application No. PCT/DK2011/000044 filed on May 6, 2011 and Danish Patent Application No. PA 2010 00398 filed May 6, 2010.
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This invention relates to aid devices for assisting people inhibited in their movement of especially the hands and/or wrists, such as people who are physically impaired due to arthritis, injury, or other physiological problems giving reduced strength. This is solved by introducing an aid tool with at least two grippers and means to attach each gripper to a finger of a person, where the grippers are adapted to follow the finger(s) in at least the directions to grab and release an object. When the aid tool has been moved to grab an object by a person, an activation of the aid tool ensures a unidirectional locking of the grippers, meaning they are locked in their movement in the releasing direction. The invention further introduces mounting means for attaching the aid tool to a body part, where the mounting means comprises coupling means for detaching and attaching this and other tools according to the need.
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OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to aid devices for assisting people inhibited in their movement of especially the hands and/or wrists, such as people who are physically impaired due to arthritis, injury, or other physiological problems giving reduced strength.
A substantial number of people suffer from deformations, chronic pain, and other impairments of the hands and wrists, due to injuries or various diseases such as rheumatoid or other forms of arthritis. Such impairments often render it difficult or impossible for the affected people to hold and effectively to use and handle tools, for example such as a pen, pencil, or other writing instrument, scissors, toothbrushes, kitchen utensils (such as knives, forks, stirrers, spatulas, etc.), and the like.
Many such people are able move their arm, and even fingers, but need strength to grip devices and hold them firmly.
The aim of the present invention therefore is to introduce a device, either single- or multi-purpose aid device, which can assist or enable people with physically impaired hands and/or wrists to hold and use various hand-held tools and devices (such as toothbrushes, keys, scissors, tongs, and kitchen utensils) with greater ease, where the invention especially introduces a tool to assist gripping objects firmly, this being especially suited for users able to move their arms, hands and fingers, only having no strength to take a firm grip on objects. Especially it is an aim of the present invention to introduce a device with grippers to be placed between the user's fingers and an object to be held, so that the holding force exerted by the aid tool does not affect the fingers but only increases the pressure between the grippers of the aid tool and the object.
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This is solved by introducing an aid tool comprising at least two grippers and means to attach each gripper to a finger of a person, where the grippers are adapted to follow the individual finger in at least the directions to grab and release an object. When the aid tool has been moved to grab an object by a person, an activation of the aid tool ensures a unidirectional locking of the grippers, meaning they are locked in their movement in the releasing direction
In this manner the users may themselves move the hand and thereby the aid tool to the object and grab it. The grippers follow the fingers in at least the directions to grab and release an object and a hold force, in the following a hold, on the object is subsequently established to ensure a firm grip even though the user has no significant strength. This hold is formed by the aid tool being adapted to tighten the grip on the object a little more than the strength of the grip at the time of activation.
In one embodiment this hold is achieved by letting at least some of the grippers comprise an inflatable section, or at least expandable contact section, being inflated or expanded when the aid tool is activated. These sections then form the contact to the object. Inflatable or expandable in the present context means they when activated will form protrusions above the surface of the grippers. The inflatable or expandable contact sections preferably have contact surfaces to the object with high friction.
In an alternative embodiment this hold is achieved by letting the grippers move in the grapping direction to form a slightly more tight grab than when the aid tool was activated, and where the grippers comprises elastically deformable contact sections to be in contact with the object. The elastically deformable contact sections are such that they will conform a little to the surface of the object, such both giving a more ‘soft’ contact to the object, thus helping to prevent it from being damaged, and in addition giving an even further tightened grab of the object. Again the surface of these contact surfaces may be such that they have a high friction.
The aid tool in one embodiment is activated by activating at least one activation switch at a predetermined force. In one embodiment the switch is positioned on a gripper between the gripper and a finger, and is adapted to be activated when the finger press on the activation switch at the predetermined force. The user therefore needs no significant strength in the fingers to use the device, only slightly to push a switch.
In an alternative embodiment the activation switch is positioned such that it is to be activated by the other hand of the person.
To inflate the inflatable sections the aid tool further comprises means to fill a fluid media into the inner of the inflatable sections when the aid tool is activated. The aid tool in this configuration therefore comprises the needed means to fill a fluid media into the inflatable sections, such as for example a compressor, fluid communications, valves, vents and/or flow restrictors.
To secure the aid tool in a quick and easy exchangeable manner to a body part, the present invention further introduces
mounting means adapted to be attached to a body part
first coupling means comprising a biased catch having a first position and a second position
holding mechanism adapted to hold the catch in the second position,
releasing means adapted to release the catch from the holding mechanism,
wherein the aid tool comprises second coupling means and where either the first coupling means or the second coupling means comprises a driving mechanism adapted to move the biased catch from a first to a second position.
The driving mechanism preferable is a pneumatic, hydraulic, piezo, electroactive, electrostrictive, electrical and/or magnetic actuator.
In more general, to ensure a quick attaching and detaching of the tool to and from the aid device, in one preferred embodiment the coupling of the first and second coupling means are based on a biased clutch, where different types of biased clutches as known in the art may be introduced such as spring clutch, a diaphragm spring, by pneumatics, strings, hydraulics, piezo motors, electrical and/or a magnetic spring clutch.
The aid tool may comprise energy storing means especially to be used in connection with the biased clutch or other energy consuming parts of the aid device.
The energy storing means may in one embodiment be recharged during handling of the tool, or during the attachment of the first and second coupling means.
In a further embodiment, the aid device may comprise electrical parts, such as a magnetic spring clutch, and may therefore comprise energy storing means for storing electrical energy, such as batteries.
In one embodiment the aid device is to be attached and detached to and from the body part in a base station, where the base station may be positioned at the home of the person, or at a place where it is operated by specialists,.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
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